Controversial ‘two bag’ bin collection policy leaves Northampton streets strewn with rubbish

Rubbish on the Mounts area of Northampton. NNL-150707-120948009
Rubbish on the Mounts area of Northampton. NNL-150707-120948009

A decision to enforce a hard-line policy on bin bag collections this week has left streets strewn with non-regulation black bin liners.

Now many disgruntled residents say it is time the policy underwent a rethink.

Rubbish on the Mounts area of Northampton. NNL-150707-121121009

Rubbish on the Mounts area of Northampton. NNL-150707-121121009

Northampton Borough Council launched its ‘two-bag’ weekly collection policy in 2013, which meant homes could only put out two green branded sacks of general waste per week as well as various tubs of recyclable material. Enterprise, the firm contracted by the council to collect refuse in the town, had until last week been taking many un-branded black bin liners as well, if they were left out. But almost “overnight” the firm has decided to begin following its contract to the letter, leaving many streets looking like a tip after bin collection days, and residents left pointing the finger at Northampton borough Council.

But leader of the authority, Councillor Mary Markham (Con, Park) said Enterprise’s decision to suddenly start enforcing the policy came as a surprise.

“They can’t just leave rubbish lying on the streets,” she said. “And that is an issue we will be taking up with Enterprise. Because they have relaxed the policy for so long and then, suddenly overnight, begin enforcing it - it has created problems and has meant we have had bags left out this week. People should have been given a bit of notice.”

Councillor Markham said borough council employeres have had to go round the worst affected streets collecting the bin liners this week.

A spokeswoman for Enterprise said in response the company just could not keep picking up extra bags of rubbish because it had become “financially unstustainable” to do so.

She continued: “Over many months we have been seeking to support the council to enforce their policy on the collection of side waste.

“We continue to encourage people to recycle and remind residents that only non-recyclable waste placed in wheelie bins will be collected, or if green sacks are used, two sacks will be collected each week. In addition, a wide range of recycling services from kerbside boxes to food waste collections are available and there is no limit on the amount of recycling people can present.

“We believe that by encouraging residents to recycle and make full use of these services there will be no excess or additional waste.”

But now the ‘two-bag’ system is being strictly enforced it has brought into question whether the policy, which caused an angry backlash when it was announced in 2013, actually works.

Labour group leader Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) said: “Those two bags are not enough for houses in multiple occupancy (HIMO). If you have four people who live in a house who don’t know each other, they are going to put out more than the two bags.

“In the HIMOs the green bags get put through the door or left outside, so the first person to pick them up isn’t necessarily going to share them round.”

The green bags are distributed to households every six months, for residents to ration until their next delivery.

But some people have not received enough bags for the six months and others have, through various reasons, used up their quota. Jackie Davis, of Robert Street, The Mounts, has to wait until October before she gets new green bags and she claims she has been told to take her rubbish to the tip herself by the council in the meantime.

She said: “I will probably end up taking the rubbish just so it doesn’t attract rats.

“But what about disabled people or people without a car? The council can’t just allow the rubbish to pile up in the streets.”

Councillor Markham says those who run out of bags, and those who live in larger households can request more bags, but with the contract with Enterprise not set to be re-negotiated until 2018, the two-bag policy is here to stay.

“There is no chance of it being changed,” she said. “The contract is to pick up two sacks a week and if you do your recycling as well, that should be enough.”